After last week’s win in Ellis, the Thomas More Prep-Marian football team will look to make it two in a row when they host Smith Center on Friday at 7 p.m. for the school’s homecoming game at Lewis Field Stadium.
The Monarchs last won consecutive games to start the 2011 season, but the bad news is Smith Center plays a style more similar to Phillipsburg than Ellis.
The Panthers’ power run game eventually wore TMP’s defense and scored 21 fourth-quarter points in Week 1. In last week’s 38-16 win by TMP, the Railroaders played with greater balance, passing 26 times compared to 29 runs.
With another run-heavy team headed to town Friday, winning the line of scrimmage looks to play heavily into the outcome.
“They’re going to run the ball 50 times against us, 60 if they can,” TMP head coach John Montgomery said. “Their offensive line plays with great pad level, and they have a knack for getting small, fast (and) athletic guys to be just brutes on the line of scrimmage.”
The Indians’ Mid-Continent League foes will come to Hays with a 2-0 record. Smith Center topped Plainville 46-28 in Week 1 and shutdown Oakley 35-0 in Week 2.
While the Monarchs were outmatched in Week 1, TMP’s coach believes the experience of playing top teams early in the season pays off down the road.
“I think it definitely gets you prepared,” Montgomery said. “Our guys recognize what it’s going to take to be successful. That’s one of the beauties in playing in a conference like this, you’re going to face pretty quality opponents week in and week out.”
Last week’s win against Ellis, a team hoping to return to the postseason, removed the possibility of back-to-back winless seasons. Ending the prolonged losing streak also intensified the Monarchs’ appetite for wins.
“If anything, the success made them hungry for more,” Montgomery said. “It helped to support the hard work that they put in. It gave them that little boost that they needed.”
TMP might need a larger boost to knock of a program known for its extended winning streaks and history of success.
“The tradition at Smith Center, it’s ingrained in their culture,” Montgomery said. “Football is very important.”
The TMP coach said it’s an approach he’d like to see replicated by his program in some form, and a homecoming win over the traditional power would help begin that process.
Last year, Smith Center edged out the Monarchs’ 30-22, one of TMP’s four losses by eight points or less.
Controlling the line of scrimmage and setting up favorable down-and-distance situations could be the difference in turning last year’s loss into a win in 2015.
“Offensively, one of the best ways to beat Smith Center is to control the time of possession,” Montgomery said. “We’ve got to be able to establish some drives.”
The coach mentioned his opponent’s first game against Plainville when Smith Center had a 21-play drive to open the game. When Smith Center’s offense is on the field, putting them in tough situations on third down and executing appears to be key.
“What we’ve got to be able to do is, when we get them into third down situations, we’ve got to keep it where it would be fourth down and long,” the TMP coach said. “We’ve gotta be able to get off the field.”